Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

A night at the ballet

The UAE is not a major stop for world-class fine arts. There is always talk of building a proper opera house in Dubai, but it hasn't happened yet. On Saturday, we went to Abu Dhabi for a fairly rare ballet performance of Cinderella, featuring dancers from the Bolshoi and the Royal Moscow ballet.

It was a cultural experience in more than one way. Culture, because ballet, and culture, because the UAE. The venue was an exhibition center, and so the stage was set up in what was essentially a conference room, with the peon seats on bleachers and the VIPs up front in leather couches (really!). There was a live orchestra (yay!) but no pit, so they were off to the side of the stage. Unfortunately, probably for reasons of acoustics, the orchestra was hooked up to microphones and the sound was amplified through speakers on either side of the stage. So even though the music was live, you could be forgiven for thinking someone just pressed play on a boom box.

The dancing was very good. Again, the unorthodox venue took away from the magic of the performance, but the girls were riveted and I tried very hard not to remember that I have seen ballet performed at the Bolshoi theater itself, as well as the Kremlin Palace. (Russia has ruined me for events like this.) As I watched the show and occasionally explained the story to my girls, I tried to imagine what it was like 100+ years ago when the ballet was the most exciting thing going on, night after night, the very pinnacle of entertainment.

At intermission, we grabbed a snack. No, not open-faced Бутерброд or swanky, overpriced beverages, but honest-to-goodness Indomie-chan ramen noodles from a package for 10dhs, and ice cream by the scoop.

Also at intermission, one of the ushers - who happens to be Slovakian - found out that I am part Slovakian (Carpatho-Rusyn, whatever) and insisted on upgrading us to the VIP seating. So we watched the rest of the ballet in great comfort, perched on leather sofas, just meters from the stage. For once, my Slovakian connections proved to be quite the advantage.

Since cultural events like these are not quite the norm here, the behavior of the attendees was a little out of the ordinary, too. Some of us were quite dressed up. Others were in leggings and hightop sneakers. Some of us paid respectful attention to the performance. Others (even in the VIP seating, where tickets cost more than 799dhs!) were playing games on smartphones and getting up and down during the performance.

So it was a little rough around the edges. But I'm glad we got a chance to see a ballet here, even if we had to go to Abu Dhabi to do it.

Normal straw or crazy straw?

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